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Prospect Retro: Carlos Guillen

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Carlos Guillen

Carlos Guillen was signed by the Houston Astros as a free agent in 1992, out of Venezuela. Assigned to the Dominican Summer League in '93, he hit .250/.350/.393 in 18 games. That didn't mean anything, given the small sample size and level of competition. He was a good athlete but so are most of the guys in that league.

Guillen moved up to the Gulf Coast League in '95, hitting .295/.356/.429 in 30 games. Again, the sample was small, but the production was reasonably impressive, and he was starting to get noticed as a prospect. At this stage, he would have been something like a C+ or B- prospect. His main problem was an inability to stay healthy, bothered by knee and shoulder problems.

Another shoulder injury limited Guillen to just 29 games for Class A Quad City in 1996. But he was very impressive in those 29 games, hitting .330/.420/.492, showing improved production across the board as well as solid plate discipline. Grading retrospectively in a case like this is tough: we know how things turned out, and at the time Guillen was getting a lot of praise for his future potential, but the shoulder injury was of serious concern and it was unclear how it would impact his future. Grade B- or Grade B seems appropriate.

Promoted to Double-A Jackson in '97, Guillen struggled. He knocked 10 homers in 115 games, but hit just .254/.327/.377 overall. I gave him a Grade B in the '98 book, commenting positively on his youth and tools and cutting him some slack because of his injury history.

Guillen moved up to Triple-A in '98, hitting .291/.352/.457 in 100 games for New Orleans. He was traded to the Mariners in the Randy Johnson deal, and hit .333 in 10 games for Seattle down the stretch. I gave him a Grade B- in the '99 book, writing that I thought he would have a "pretty decent career" but might get off to a slow start and would need a patient manager.

He began '99 as Seattle's regular second baseman, but blew out his right anterior cruciate ligament and was limited to just 5 games. I didn't know what to make of him at this point. I thought the injuries were likely to inhibit his career and reduced his rating to Grade C+.

Guillen returned to hit .257/.324/.396 in 90 games for the Mariners in 2000. He put up similar numbers in '01, '02, and '03, looking like a decent, solid, but not spectacular player. He broke out after being traded to the Tigers, with excellent seasons in '04 and again this year.

Injuries hampered Guillen's development in the minor leagues. He was young for his levels, and put up good numbers in '95, '96, and '98, but I was never especially confident in how he was going to develop. I admit that I was taken aback by his huge step forward in '04. His career marks entering 2005:

Major League career: .277/.346/.421
Minor League career: .278/.350/.420

Virtually identical.

What do we expect in the future?

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Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA list brings up guys like Roberto Alomar and Ryne Sandberg as possible comps as well. I'm not sure any of those really fit the direction that Guillen may be headed. Hell, I still basically don't know what to expect from him. Any ideas guys and gals?